Thoughtful Parenting: Understanding adoption
As our agency has provided pre- and post-adoption training to birth parents and potential adoptive parents, we have heard many of the same questions about the adoption process. Following are some of the more common questions and their answers.
Where can I adopt a child?
Adoption happens in several contexts. Infant domestic adoption is the most common, in which birth parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights and make an adoption plan for another couple to raise their baby. Birth parents usually choose the adoptive parents. In Colorado, all infant adoptions must be facilitated by an adoption agency (not by a private attorney), unless the baby is an immediate relative of the adoptive parents. International adoptions are usually handled by an adoption agency; each agency will work with specific countries. Adoption through the foster care is less common but just as important to consider. In our state, more than 1,000 children are ready to be adopted and removed from foster care.
How much does it cost to adopt?
Adoption costs vary widely, from $15,000 to $40,000 or more. Typically, international adoptions are the most expensive due to overseas travel and legal costs on both sides. Infant domestic adoption costs can begin around $15,000 and will vary, depending on the medical needs of the mother and other expenses. A reputable adoption agency will clearly disclose its fees and tell adoptive parents which, if any, costs are unknown. Foster care adoption is the only type of adoption that does not normally incur expenses for the adoptive parents; adoption expenses are covered by the state.
When can the child look for his birth parents?
One aspect of adoption that changed drastically in the past 20 years is that most infant domestic adoptions are now open or semi-open. Adoptive parents maintain communication with the birth parents, to whatever extent is comfortable for both families. If, for some reason, one parent no longer communicates, then the child could seek to contact his or her birth parents at any time, unless the court has sealed the records. In the case of a closed adoption, the child will need to wait until he or she is 18 years old to access the records.
What if the birth mother tries to get the baby back?
While this is a common fear for adoptive parents, fueled by stories about legal challenges to adoptions, it is an unfortunate misperception. When birth parents and adoptive parents receive the information and counseling they need before the adoption is final, their relationship will be based on mutual trust and mutual agreement that they want what is best for the baby. Additionally, states have improved the adoption process to ensure that every person’s legal rights are protected, including the adoptive parents.
How long does an adoption take?
Infant domestic adoptions are unpredictable, because they depend on a birth mother (or birth parents) choosing the adoptive parents. Typical wait times are anywhere from 12 to 36 months. International adoptions can take the same time and depend on the legal process in a foreign country.
Having accurate information helps everyone — parents, as well as friends and family members of the parents — understand what to expect. Selah has invested hundreds of hours in understanding, advocating and counseling for adoption. We are always available to answer questions.
Melinda Clark is the CEO of Selah, a holistic reproductive health center. Over the past seven years, she has educated, counseled and supported more than a dozen couples involved in the adoption process, both birth parents and adoptive parents. She loves the beauty of adoption, while understanding its hard places.
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